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Athlon on Auburn's Gus Malzahn: 'Might be one of the best first-year coaching jobs of the BCS era' Auburn coach Gus Malzahn yells instructions to his team during the second quarter of the BCS national championship game against Florida State in Pasadena, Calif., on Monday Jan. 6, 2013. (Julie Bennett/

Now that the season is over, has taken a look at the 31 first-year coaches and graded each.So who graded the highest?Let's just say it probably took as long to give Auburn's the top billing as it does for the Tigers to get to the line and snap the ball.The turnaround from 3-9 to 12-2 alone would warrant head-of-the-class honors, but add a BCS title game appearance and it's a no-brainer.:

Malzahn's debut at Auburn might be one of the best first-year coaching jobs of the BCS era. The Tigers struggled mightily last season, losing all eight conference games and finishing with their worst record since a 3-8 mark in 's final year in 1998. But Auburn rebounded quickly under Malzahn, who had a solid grasp of the team's roster due to a stint as offensive coordinator under from 2009-11. The Tigers suffered an early season loss to LSU (35-21) but finished the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. During this streak, Auburn made two of the most memorable plays of the 2013 season, with returning a missed field goal to beat Alabama and quarterback connecting with on an unlikely 73-yard touchdown pass to beat Georgia. The Tigers fell just short of winning the national championship, but the foundation is strong for this team to contend once again in 2014. Another credit to Malzahn's ability to coach was the development of Marshall, who was a Georgia defensive back in 2011 and played only one season at quarterback on the junior college level.

Final Grade: A+ -To see how Athlon graded other first-year coaches, including Arkansas' Bret Bielema, Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville and Tennessee's Butch Jones, .